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The Tab for All This Luxury? $65

Perfection for a Price: the Buffet at the Ritz-Carlton Has Everything--Quality, Quantity and a Cast of Beautiful People


Had it been around, the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Dana Point is the kind of place where Truman Capote's high-society "swans" of the '40s and '50s would have gossiped over lunch before hitting the spa for mud wraps.

It's a place where beautiful people in feathered hats and saris gather for a leisurely champagne brunch and some serious people-watching on the sun-splashed patio of the Terrace Restaurant, which overlooks the lively pool scene with its reggae band and bronzed sunbathers. Giant white umbrellas shield customers from the sun, glistening off the cobalt blue glasses and silver serving pieces. It's all very chichi in a casual way.

All this luxury and mise en scene comes with a price. One way to justify the $65 per person cost is to consider that most everyone's favorite foods are available in unlimited quantities. Caviar? They have it. Buffalo mozzarella? They have it. Shrimp, smoked fish, stone crab? They have them.

I calculated my many favorite flavor combinations and came away pleased with the math: raspberries and cream, smoked salmon and onions, caviar with chopped eggs, feta and pine nuts, coconuts and flan. Variety makes this brunch better than, say, a $100 dinner of surf and turf.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday August 29, 2000 Orange County Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction; Wire
Pool view--A photograph in Sunday's Orange County section misidentified the view from the Terrace Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point. Diners have a pool view, not an ocean view.

The Terrace's bountiful choices are displayed on linen-topped tables decorated with hand-carved melons and a giant ice sculpture of the hotel chain's logo.

After beverages are ordered, guests help themselves to various courses, starting with the caviar station (three different ones), smoked fish (salmon, hake, trout) seared ahi, shrimp, crab, bagels and a variety of cheeses, salads (with toppings that include smoked duck, pumpkin seeds, croutons and pine nuts), pa^te, fruits and smoothies.

The next table offers hot foods: roasted, smoked leg of lamb, Sichuan pork with horseradish sauce, New York steak with wild mushroom sauce, chicken with rosemary, breakfast meats, pastas, eggs, waffles and roasted vegetables. Omelets are available with about anything imaginable. You have the feeling that if you requested something the chef couldn't find, he would run out and get it.

For dessert, you name it: pear mousse cake, white chocolate crunchy cake that is more like pudding, tiramisu, pecan tart, cheesecake, coconut flan, a flourless chocolate torte and endless pastries and puddings.

Near the dessert table stands a bar where highballs are offered. Guests can order from their waiters, but why bother when you can walk up to this little bar and get one?

Sometimes buffets fall short on quality in their quest for quantity. Not here. Every item was well prepared, and the service staff makes sure no dish lingers too long on a steam table. The fruits and vegetables are fresh, the meats are first-rate and the desserts are delightful. The only bad thing about a brunch like this is that there are not more like them.

The Terrace Restaurant, Ritz-Carlton hotel, 33533 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Dana Point; (949) 240-1061. Sunday brunch, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Prices: $65 for adults; $32.50 for children ages 4 to 12; free for children 3 and younger.

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